My best friend brought me CD’s of yours and you are my new hero! I am working my way through them for the second time, and I have a question about how you administer consequences. My 10.5 year old son does not follow through–with anything. Tonight he stood in the kitchen for over an hour and did not unload a single dish from the dishwasher. He will either just stand there, or wander to another room and turn on the t.v. when I am in another part of the house and not paying attention. I have 2 other children and I obviously cannot hover over him constantly in order to keep him in check.
Hover: To hang over or around.
Correct: To make right; to bring back or attempt to bring back to propriety in morals; to discipline for faults or deviations from moral rectitude.
Instruct: To teach; to inform the mind; to educate; to impart knowledge to one who was destitute of it. The first duty of parents is to instruct their children in the principles of religion and morality.
(American Dictionary of the English Language –Noah Webster 1828)
You definitely shouldn’t have to hover over your son. Hovering gives a message of not trusting. Ifhe thinks that you don’t trust him,he will think of himself as a dishonest person based upon your behaviors. Hovering is also a form of a power struggle.
So, if you shouldn’t hover over a child to make sure that he follows through with earned consequences, or instructions that have been given, what should you do to change the behavior?
Trust he will do the task; walk away and do other things with the children. Then when he chooses not to follow the instructions you give, correct him and instruct him on what he should have done.
Does your son REALLY know how to properly wash the dishes? Have you done them with him lately and described what you do first, second etc? Some children don’t follow through with tasks because they don’t really understand how to make the huge task really get done. They become overwhelmed. Also, doing dishes takes lots of steps. When you are sure that your son understands all the steps to doing dishes, then try giving him an instruction to unload the dishes and remind him to check back. When he checks back praise him and then give him an instruction for the next step. Some children have a harder time focusing, so they need to learn how to conquer large jobs by focusing on smaller parts of the job at a time.
Does your son know how to follow an instruction? If he is wandering off, he is not following an instruction. One of the steps is, do the task immediately and check back. He isn’t doing either one of those. He should earn negative consequences and practice how to follow an instruction.
Does your son know how to stay on task? Some people are more easily distracted and need to learn exactly how to stay on task.
The best way to teach this is to do lots of work with your child to show him how to get a job done. My sister-in-law timed how fast she could load a dishwasher. It was something like 2 minutes. She had the kids time her. Her children know now that it only takes 2 minutes to load a dishwasher if you stay focused. This knowledge is empowering. Anyone can stay focused for 2 minutes. And, 2 minutes leads to 4 minutes etc. The most common reason people choose to wander away from a chore is that they are discouraged by how LONG the chore will MOST LIKELY take to complete. In short, they have anxiety about loosing too much time doing the task.
The second best thing you can do to instruct your child how to follow through with a task is BE REALLY CONSISTENT with correcting ALL negative behaviors or things that disrupt your home and have them follow through with what they have earned EVERY TIME.
I know this could sound like hovering, but it isn’t, it is correcting, instructing, teaching. We have to pay a certain amount of attention to our children’s behaviors initially to inspire them to choose to control them on their own. I promise you that if you really get dedicated to making sure all instructions are followed with all the steps. After a few days, you won’t have the disobedience problems you have now. But beware, you will probably notice another behavior that needs your teaching and attention.
Your consistency is the very best way to show them cause and effect. Cause and effect is the real teacher for teaching people how to govern their own behaviors.
*Note* I would not have my TV so accessible. You may want to keep it unplugged, or keep the remote control hidden. You could also use the remote to mess up the antenna, and then hide the remote. This will make the TV fuzzy when it is turned on with no way to fix it. If I couldn’t always be around my TV and my children were just learning proper use of televisions and our family’s policy for the TV, I would make sure that the noise on the fuzz is turned up really loud before I hid the remote. This would help me hear what they were doing, so that I could come teach to their deviant behavior. If you don’t catch stuff, you can’t correct it. If teaching children to govern themselves is really about changing their hearts, then you must know when their hearts are choosing wrong. Only then can you gently instruct them how to change the behavior and their heart.
Make sure your children know that when they turn on the TV, they must ask you first. This is an instruction or a No answer. Make sure that you ask for acknowledgement and then an “OK”. Then if the TV is ever on without permission, follow through with what they earn for not following that instruction.
TVs are adult machines. Children do not have enough wisdom or discernment to be in a position of operating them without adult consent and supervision. You will need to decide in your couples meeting what the appropriate age or level of wisdom is to operate the television independently.